Edward HUGHES
Rank: Private
Number: 235340
Unit: 16th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS (CHES on mem)
Date of Death: 31 July 1917
Age: 19
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Edward was born in Romiley, the son of commercial traveller Henry Hughes and his wife Annie. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living there, at 41 Guy Wood Lane. Edward had an older sister, Dorothy and a younger brother, Arthur. He was, probably a twin as the Census lists him and his brother John as both being 2.

He enlisted into the army at Stockport in August 1914, joining the local Territorial Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment (service number 3009).One of the myths of the Great War is of thousands of young boys joining up underage and being sent to fight in the trenches. Whilst there are, indeed, instances of this, it was comparatively rare. John's second service number, 266010, was not issued until at least the beginning of 1917 when he will have been 18 and records at the National Archives confirm that he was not overseas prior to this. It is probable that he never fought with the Cheshires and, when he arrived in France, the army will have decided to transfer him to the Fusiliers - his service number confirming this was first to the 4th battalion, and then to the 16th. It is also likely that he never had chance to tell his family of the transfer as his inscription on the local War Memorial shows him serving with the Cheshires.

As July 1917 drew to a close, the British Army was finalising its plans for a major offensive that would later be officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres (but is more commonly known as Passchendaele). The date of the start of the offensive was still uncertain and the 16th had to go into their assembly trenches on the night of the 28/29th. They were 474 strong - about half normal strength. 14 Army Divisions - over 250,000 men - would go "over the top" at 3.50am on the 31st.

In each sector, the attack would move forward in a series of leapfrogs by different battalions. Two companies of the 16th Battalion were tasked with attacking the German front line as far as a point on the map marked as the "Blue Line". The remaining two companies would then overlap to capture the Black Line.

It was still very dark when the men advanced. It was impossible to pick out any landmarks as they went across No Man's Land but they headed towards where the British artillery barrage was falling, with the officers snatching quick glances at their compasses. There were relatively few casualties even when crossing the German front line, where they came under some rifle and machinegun fire from the left. They cleared some pockets of resistance and secured the position on the Blue Line. The second half of the Battalion now took up the fight moving on towards positions known as Cancer Avenue and Telegraph House, which were well defended with concrete pillboxes. After a hard fight, they managed to capture them and move on to their final objective. 36 men had been killed including Edward and another local man, Bertram Smith.

After the War, Mr & Mrs Hughes had moved away from the area and were living at 87 Albert Avenue, Prestwich.

   
           
   
     
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